On Sunday evening, Major League Baseball will announce its All-Star rosters, and the only certainty for the Orioles is that they’ll get at least one nod. A second would be a surprise, but not unwarranted.
The question is whom will it be? And the best guess is that second baseman Jonathan Schoop and left fielder/first baseman Trey Mancini are the most likely options. I’m leaning toward Schoop, but second base is an exceptionally deep position.
I asked third baseman Manny Machado, who has been an All-Star three times, about his teammates, Schoop and Mancini, and their All-Star chances.
“They both deserve it, so they both should be there. It’s a just a matter of how people see it,” Machado said. “(But) my opinion here does not matter. … I do not make the rosters.”
Machado’s opinion on Schoop, however, matters plenty. No one in the game knows Schoop better, no one has spent more time with the Orioles’ 25-year-old second baseman, no one has watched Schoop develop longer than Machado.
“Me personally? I think he’s one of the best second basemen in the game,” Machado said of Schoop. “He gets a little overshadowed by (Houston’s Jose) Altuve and a couple other guys. But I think he comes out here every day and he wants to learn, he wants to get better and he wants to get better every day. I think this is just the start of it.”
It’s been a pretty tremendous start of 2017 for Schoop. Heading into Saturday’s game he was batting .293 with a team-best 15 homers and 49 RBIs. He really broke out last year hitting 25 home runs and driving in 82 runs, and he’s on pace to blow past both of those career highs.
“The last couple years he’s struggled and just kept working and fighting and finally hit (25) bombs last year, hit (.267),” Machado said. “I mean, he had a helluva year and he’s on the same track right now. Hopefully, he gets selected and goes to the All-Star Game. He definitely deserves it.”
Machado and Schoop first played together in 2011 at Low-A Delmarva; both were shortstops, but Machado’s bonus boy status and eye-popping raw talent pushed Schoop to third. Now Machado is a Gold Glove third baseman, Schoop is a rifled-arm second baseman and potential All-Star and the two are exceptionally close friends.
Machado’s down year average-wise – he’s hit .216 with a .289 on-base percentage through 75 games, but also has 15 homers – likely will leave him off his third consecutive All Star team. The two buddies have never spoken about their 2017 All-Star chances.
“No, you can’t talk about that. You can’t talk about if you make it or if you don’t. When he gets there and he makes it, and hopefully he does, he needs to learn and just experience the whole experience by himself and take it all in,” Machado said. “It’s something special. It’s something to be selected by your peers and by coaches and by fans. That’s just an experience that you have to enjoy that ride by yourself.”
When Machado made his first All-Star team in 2013, he was one of five Orioles on the AL team, along with Chris Davis, Adam Jones, J.J. Hardy and Chris Tillman. This year, the Orioles may have only one representative for the first time since 2011. But that shouldn’t alter the experience for Schoop or whomever the O’s representative is, Machado said.
“Made it a little easier, knowing different people in the clubhouse and not being by yourself, so it’s a little different, but I think it’s an overall good experience,” Machado said. “It’s a little fast at first. There’s a lot of things going on. But, at the end of the day, it’s just a hell of an experience. You get to meet a lot of different people. Kind of see the other teammates around (the league), players that you play against. You see them how they are in the clubhouse and you get a different perspective about players when you see them like that. I think, hopefully, he makes it and he’s able to experience that.”
And if Schoop gets snubbed completely? Well, Machado said, Schoop will deal with it well, like he deals with his everyday job.
“Definitely would suck if he doesn’t make it, but those are things we can’t control,” Machado said. “But he can control going out there and going 4-for-4 today and helping this team win.”